Just an update on the crab apples. After the not so successful crab apple syrup I thought I’d better have a go at making more traditional crab apple jelly. I boiled the apples as directed and then put them in a jelly bag.
The instructions say to hang the jelly bag up overnight over a bowl to collect the juice. The books are less useful in explaining how to do this. We came up with idea of hanging the bag from a rack inside the oven with a bowl underneath.
Lovely isn’t it? Surprisingly, this worked and we ended up with four jars of well set apple jelly. So the conclusion on that experiment is that it is worth boiling up the crab apples and putting the stuff through a jelly bag rather than trying to juice them.
But we did find a use for the crab apple syrup. We were making a Chinese vegetable stir fry. Usually when we do this we sort of follow a recipe but mainly do what the assistant gardeners describe as ‘empty the fridge into the pan and fry it up with some ginger and garlic’. This time we thought ‘hey we could add some of that crab apple syrup stuff’. Since I was a bit unsure about whether it would work, I used the syrup to make sweet and sour sauce. Sweet and sour sauce is made of vinegar, vegetable stock, cornflour and sugar. So I used the crab apple syrup instead of sugar. It tasted lovely. It looked lovely – a rather bright pink colour, caused in part by the crab apples but also by the stock, which was the cooking water left over from cooking purple carrots, a bit of tomato juice and the (ahem) custard powder which we used instead of cornflower. Custard powder is basically just cornflower so it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. It was one of those recipes which will never be repeated quite in that form and so I can guarantee we will never recreate it but the principle of using crab apple syrup in sweet and sour sauce probably works!
My senior assistant gardener asked why this was appropriate for the blog since it didn’t concern gardening. The answer is that I count the crab apples and their various adventures as gardening. Also, the purple carrots which produced the lovely coloured sauce were from the garden. These were Purple Haze carrots which are rather weird but quite successful. The only problem is that they produce all this purple stock when you cook them and that leads to some strangely coloured soups and sauces.